March 31, 2022
- as seen by -Julie Larsen Maher
A great blue heron (Ardea herodias) is still as a statue, its pewter-blue wings stretched to soak up the sun, at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine. This bird (and birder) destination is aptly named for Rachel Carson (1907-1964) known by many as the mother of environmental movements. A diverse group of wading and shorebirds flock to the refuge’s beaches, salty marshes, dunes, and tidal mudflats. These havens have inspired many lyrical tributes.
“The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities.” –RACHEL CARSON, Conservationist, Author, Marine Biologist, and Champion of the Environment
“The marsh, to him who enters it in a receptive mood, holds, besides mosquitoes and stagnation, melody, the mystery of unknown waters, and the sweetness of Nature undisturbed by man.” –WILLIAM BEEBE, Naturalist, Writer, Ornithologist, Marine Biologist, and Explorer
William Beebe (1877-1962) worked for the New York Zoological Society (now the Wildlife Conservation Society). He and Rachel Carson were allies with a passion for poetically defining nature. Beebe highlighted Carson’s work within his own, and Carson dedicated her 1951 The Sea Around Us to Beebe noting “My absorption in the mystery and meaning of the sea have been stimulated and the writing of this book aided by the friendship and encouragement of William Beebe.”
During my research into Carson, I came upon these details in Exploratory Works: Drawings from the Department of Tropical Research Field Expeditions, a volume on Beebe’s fieldwork for WCS. I flipped the pages and found that one of the organizers of the publication is my colleague, Madeleine Thompson, WCS Director of Library and Archives.
Conservation connections transcend generations, with only the slightest degrees of separation. My office at WCS was once Beebe’s where he studied birds and butterflies and perhaps where he wrote to Carson. I am hoping they remain in spirit.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To celebrate Women’s History Month, Wild View is featuring posts by and about women and their contributions to science and conservation throughout March. Beebe quote from The Log of the Sun: A Chronicle of Nature’s Year. Carson quote from her acceptance speech of the National Book Award for Nonfiction (1952), The Sea Around Us.